FRANKFURT // It's a tough job, but someone has to do it. Seriously, the public might think the life of a car reviewer is glamorous, with all the luxurious vehicles we get to drive in exotic locales around the globe, and I will admit that, sometimes, that is the case. But it also takes a lot of hard work and hardly any sleep to get the job done properly, especially at a major auto show such as Frankfurt.
The press conference schedule is exhausting, to say the least. On the first and busiest media preview days, there are no less than 51 press conferences scheduled by all the major car makers, with at least two product showings for each company. That's more than 100 vehicles for journalists to see and write about in one day. It is impossible for one person to cover every launch, since many of the press conferences happen simultaneously.
Then there is the physical toll the press conferences take on a poor, sleep-deprived journalist. The BMW press conference started at 8:30 that morning. The last unveiling didn't end until 5pm. And all day, it's go, go, go until the last press conference ends and a journalist can get off her feet - and start writing and filing photos to her editor. By the time she's finished, it's 9:30pm; that's a 13-hour day. Glamorous? Hardly.
And trying to get a media kit in a roomful of hundreds of often taller and bigger journalists can be fraught with danger for those of us of smaller stature. I was often pushed, bumped, squeezed, stepped on and nearly trampled to death as I tried to surge forward enough to reach my little arm to the counter and try to grab a press kit. I emerged beaten and bruised, but triumphant, each time. I may be small, but I'm not afraid. Well, maybe just a little.
Unlike the spokesmodels, who just have to stand there and look pretty, journalists are always moving, so it's not often you'll see us wearing stilettos on the show floor. But even with comfortable shoes, that's no guarantee that your feet will not be killing you by midafternoon. So, if you can't find a seat at a press conference because a Chinese reporter is saving seats for his 12 colleagues (as happened to me), what's a girl to do? Well, skip the conference and go charm her way into the Audi VIP lounge. The nice German man at the entrance to the lounge let me enter to go meet my "interview from Audi". There, I got a nice, comfortable seat, some delicious food and all the refreshments I could enjoy. Later, I went to the Volkswagen media lounge for more sustenance, where a nice French journalist gave me his seat. Merci beaucoup!
Lest you think I exaggerate, let me explain that there are 11 halls in which the press conferences take place here. A journalist must walk kilometres and climb countless sets of stairs, so it can be quite tiring. I do a lot of walking on a regular basis, so it wasn't so bad for me. But I did see a lot of older, mostly overweight men struggling to get around. There were media shuttles, but they always seemed to be full, so I never had the pleasure.
I did, however, get lost a few times, because there are no people showing the way to the next press conference. There are plenty of information booths, but nobody was ever there to give out information. I think they were all outside, smoking. But, perhaps, we should back up a bit. There were some nice moments throughout the day, not the least of which was finally seeing in the flesh the beautiful cars. We cannot help but sharply draw in our breath when Mercedes takes the wraps off its stunning new SLS or when Lamborghini reveals its sexy new Reventón Roadster.
Another good thing about Frankfurt - I never once had to show my credentials, open up my purse, take out my computer, remove my shoes, discard my water bottle or get sniffed by police dogs, as I would have to at the Detroit auto show. It was a welcome relief to be treated like a human being and not a criminal. Besides, there was never anyone providing security at the entrances to the halls. They were all outside, smoking.
So, after 13 hours of hard work, sore feet, intensely hot lights shining in sweltering conditions, having to lie and cheat to get a seat and being beaten and bruised by buffoons, was it all worth it? Definitely! email@example.com